The art of Or-stay-lee-un English – Lesson 1 Bastard

My frequent use of slang in my blog has often sent non-Aussies off to “The Big G” in an attempted to discover what I am waffling on about but Google does have it’s limits and a proper definition is required for the correct usage and meaning of the word Bastard.

It wasn’t until I visited Ireland that I appreciated just how different language can be in other English speaking countries. Both in meaning and pronunciation. Everywhere we went in Ireland we seemed to hear the word Fook. Be it a teenager, a Dad or a Mum or even little old ladies, the word was in common usage. At first we were a bit taken aback but then realised it is far removed from it’s origins and basically is a replacement for the phrase “My goodness gracious me”.

Reflecting on this I thought it might be time to explain to potential travellers to Australia what they are in for when they land here and nip in the bud any unintended offense.

In some countries it seems the state of wedlock of your parents at the time of your birth (or even conception) is important to your station in life but in Oz we don’t much care for that information. We are not responsible for our parents activities and being blessed with a little bundle of joy is generally good news unless you have a severe drug habit or are in your early to mid teens. When your particular God gives the okay doesn’t count for much if at all.

What Aussies do appreciate though, is the sensitivity of other folk (read Poms or more specifically the Stuck Up ones) to this important genealogical information so the chance to annoy these sensitive types has always been embraced.


Hence the evolving of the word Bastard. Initially it was used to shock value but has since progressed into a form where an accompanying word is required to decide if you have been insulted or complimented. To this end I offer the following examples.

If you are called

  • a Happy Bastard: you are humourless and generally not on the A list for parties. You have my sympathies if not my company.
  • a Sad Bastard: you are unskilled and not to be trusted with power tools. A particularly insulting term if applied by other males from your peer group.
  • a Sneaky Bastard: this needs more information. If delivered by someone you beat to the last beer it’s an insult but if applied by a fellow conspirator when you have successfully taken down a Pommy Bastard it is high praise indeed.
  • a Bloody Bastard: an ancient application of the term that shows lack of adjectival imagination. Rarely used.
  • a Dumb Bastard: you have just done something silly. Not necessarily insulting unless applied often. If used regularly you will graduate to a Sad Bastard when being talked about.
  • a Funny Bastard: an expression of unhappiness. You have just taken advantage of me and a further offense will not be welcomed. (This is a warning shot that means cease and desist or get your skates on.)
  • a Dirty Bastard: Please do not urinate in my unattended beer can again. This is a positive statement if delivered by peer group males who observed the action but a negative if offered by the can owner.
  • a Pommy Bastard: formerly a standard insult but often used as a term of endearment. If used after you have suffered 3 rd degree burns from going out in the sun topless it’s a sympathetic term. After losing to Australia in a cricket match it’s a good natured ribbing and if used after beating the Aussies at cricket it’s a well deserved insult.
  • a Fooking Bastard: you are in no way a gentleman and the marital status of your parents at the time of your conception is highly suspect.

This covers the more common usage of the word. My fellow Bloggers will probably have further usages that I welcome them to expand upon.


19 thoughts on “The art of Or-stay-lee-un English – Lesson 1 Bastard

  1. A Sick Bastard: Definitely not a medical description of your general level of health. The more apt definition of a Sick Bastard is your offensive lifestyle (usually more pointedly at your sexual deviance or discussions thereof), which nevertheless appeals to the equally off-colour sense of Aussie humour. The Sick-er you are, the more accepted you become and the more likely you’ll be offered free stuff.

  2. It still sounds like a derogatory term given the context—it appears you don’t call someone a ____ bastard unless you’re being sarcastic, humorous, or deliberately offensive. And is the term ever used towards a woman? Or is the other “b” word used with similar adjectives?

    I heard a Scot also use the word “fook,” (or the adjective form, “fookin’) and I was fairly sure he meant it to be insulting since it was aimed at our former president W., and not in a nice way. But my children say I take these things far too seriously and “they’re just words:” a phrase that makes this poor old English teacher throw up her hands in disgust.

    1. It is also used as a term of acceptance to the peer group, HG.

      We had a little South African chap who was sent to my team as a last resort. It didn’t take long for me to realise he thought when he was called a bastard that he had done something offensive.

      I soon sorted out the confusion and he became a valuable resource in our group.

      I have found that when the words George W, or Dubya, or Tony Blair are used with the word, it’s derogatory.

      Interestingly, and only since you have pointed it out, have I realised the same rules do not apply to the ladies using the other B word.

      I can’t believe I didn’t notice it’s only used on blokes. Women use the term too but only in reference to blokes too.

      And here’s me been paying out the Catholic Church for sexism while living in a glass house.

      1. Ah ha! This is where language reveals the core of a culture. If “bastard” is used as a term of acceptance to a group and a woman can’t ever be called a bastard, then it suggests she cannot be accepted as a colleague, an equal.

        That said, I don’t think I want a coworker to call me a “lucky bitch.” 😉

        1. It is a big pointer, HG. We are so advanced as a culture that women are allowed to watch football now though the steps towards them being allowed to commentate have only just started and been rejected by the fans.

          It’s only been a handful of years since the Australian Football League measured their fan base and discovered to their amazement that women make up nearly half the audience.

          We are suffering a new conservatism these days so perhaps this shocking development can be reversed. After that we can aim at “neck to knees” swimming costumes.

          I should point out the younger generation have taken the language further than I feel comfortable with. A reference to a girlfriend as a Bitch had me worried about the meaning of the word. Apparently that is not an insult but it still jars with me.

  3. I love it! Our term of endearment for our co-workers is Asshole…but we have to be careful with our new boss….she wouldn’t think it humorous at all.

  4. I heard about a U2 concert in Dublin — Bono, in order to demonstrate his pet cause, began clapping his hands and announced that every time he did so, a child in Africa died of starvation.
    A drunk Irishman in the rear of the crowd shouted back, “Well, fooking STOP it then!!!”

      1. Usually uttered when someone has told me they’ve won the lottery or about to go on a fabulous trip. I mean it in the “positive” sense and think they grasp the general meaning from my tone…. (at least I hope so or I might find myself down the hall in the HR Department being re-educated on sensitivity).

  5. Glad you wrote this Pete. very comprehensive and an enjoyable read.

    And on the post above this…another excellent read…I’m also a cricket fanatic and think Chappell I. is the weak link in the commentary……except for the one time when he didn’t know he was on-air and was using VERY colourful language about some construction work going on in the vicinity of the commentary box.
    (I’d like to write a whole lot more about that, but I’ve got to front up to rebuilding the bloody bastard of a nursery this morning……apologies in advance if I’m not regularly in attendance here for a few weeks)

    1. Ta for the compliment, GOF.

      You pushed me to finally write the thing.

      I look forward to you getting back on air and seeing some of your cricket stuff. (hopefully with Elle in the Outer)

  6. I don’t want to be a complete basturd who doesn’t appreciate fine blogging, because I really do,
    …but today’s new word for me was:

    pommy [ˈpɒmɪ]
    n pl -mies
    (sometimes capital) Slang a mildly offensive word used by Australians and New Zealanders for an English person Sometimes shortened to pom
    [of uncertain origin. Among a number of explanations are: (1) based on a blend of immigrant and pomegranate (alluding to the red cheeks of English immigrants); (2) from the abbreviation POME, Prisoner of Mother England (referring to convicts)]

    1. I have always preferred Prisoner of Mother England as a backhander for “those left behind” in the Old Dart.

      Suggestions for the origin of the term “Old Dart” gratefully accepted. Just Googled it and it’s open for interpretation too.

      Looks like GOF’s free advert has scored me a visitor. Ta for the contribution Drude.

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